Tanzania Update 2012

Sorry we haven’t been posting. We haven’t really had internet access. But here is everything we’ve been doing…

Wednesday May 16, 2012

So we arrived at our hotel in Dar Es Salaam with no problems whatsoever!  For me it was a seven hours journey from Boston to Amsterdam, where I met up with Roger and Shona.  I had a five hour layover in Amsterdam (so plenty of time to walk around the airport looking at wooden shoes and tulips). Next was a 10 hour flight to Dar Es Salaaam via Kilimanjaro. When we stepped out of the plane onto the runway it was so warm and humid. Palm trees were scattered around the runway …as were some pretty decent size cockroaches! A friend of Dr.Minga, a very nice woman named Angela, drove us to our hotel.  We rode along the lively streets of Dar listening to some sweet tunes from Michael Bolton and Whitney Houston. We were shocked at how many people were out and about selling things by the light of torches along the street.  There were also so many people running around weaving in and out of traffic.

The place we are staying is pretty nice. One of the last hot showers I will have this summer! We watched a Spanish soap opera (yeah I know…random), had a beer, and know I’m ready for some much needed sleep.

We are only staying here a brief time then headed to Morogoro a few hours away, a safari, and then finally to Ilima, which is about a 12ish hour drive along some rough roads.  Tomorrow Shona, Roger, and I will be visiting Open University of Tanzania along with Dr. Minga, a professor at the Open University who has been with the Ilima Poultry Project from the very beginning.

Friday May 18, 2012

This morning I woke up at 5am to the sound of praying outside the window.  It was actually pretty cool to listen to. The water was still not working in our room in Morogoro’s White House Inn, but thankfully they left a bucket of water outside of the room so we could wash up a bit…yay bucket bath! We eventually got our rooms switched to the building next door. Now I have a lovely view of some backyard chickens and goats! We figured we should enjoy having running water for the next few days while will still have it, because once we go to Ilima we will be back to buckets!

This morning we left for the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, which has a veterinary college. It’s quite a big campus right underneath the mountains – such a beautiful view! We ended up spending all afternoon at the University. We met with Dr. Mellau, the head of the dept. of veterinary medicine and public health. We talked to him about what the Ilima Poultry Project was all about and  told us everything about the veterinary college.  We then went on a tour of the entire vet school with one of the anatomy lab technicians. We saw the anatomy lab, PM room,  the small animal clinic, the virology labs, etc.  It was interesting to compare to this school to the OVC. In some ways the schools are so similar yet also worlds apart.  They still use halothane and manually develop radiographs by dipping them in the chemicals.  On the other hand, they have a PCR and a sequencer. I found the virology labs the most interesting, especially in regards to our poultry project. The virologist we spoke with was telling us about how they are making Newcastle Disease Virus vaccines with strains isolated from local chickens.  He explained that the commercial vaccine is not always effective in these local chickens and in addition is more expensive. The vaccine made at the school is given to the farmers for free or a small amount of money.  The new virology lab is made out of two storage containers stacked on top of one another.  Despite its external appearance lab was very impressive! They have equipment donated from USAid including a PCR and an instrument which converts RNA to cDNA ( probably should know this, but I totally forget what it’s called).  Some of the Tanzanian students have recently come back from training at UC Davis and a phD student named Ava from UC Davis is there for a few months to oversee the project at Sokoine University. She is involved with an organization called “Predict” which focuses on predicting emerging diseases. Right now the lab is focusing on RNA viruses. Since they are still such a new lab they send many of their samples to an older, more established lab in Uganda to confirm.  It ended up being a great tour and we were thankful that so many people took time out of their day to show us around! We had lunch at a restaurant on campus right under the mountain. Like all the other restaurants we have been to so far it was open on the sides with just a roof. Angela met up with us there and we went to a place called “Rock Garden” with the slogan “We will rock you.” We followed rocky paths around mountain streams and saw so many monkeys (tumbili).  We searched a couple of bookstores in Morogoro for the Tanzania Atlas that students at the Ilima and Lubanda village primary schools use. Ilima Primary only has one atlas for all the students to use. However, it’s one of the most important books because so many questions from the exit exam come from it. While Roger was in one of the bookstores Shona and I waited in the car with Angela and we made some friends. These two guys wanted to show us around town and later jokingly offered Roger a dowry of 200 cows for both of us. Not even 200 each! After a visit to Angela’s house we went out to dinner with both her and Dr.Gimbi’s wife , Dorothy, as well as Angela’s very quite nephew and Dorothy’s two very energetic daughters. We are lucky to have so many connections in Tanzania!

Saturday May 19, 2012

Saturday was one of my favorite days here in Tanzania so far. We spent the day on safari at Mikumi National Park, which is only an hour from Morogoro. It turned out to be quite the adventure. On the way there Angela got a speeding ticket – there were police at the edge of the road with a radar gun. The ticket was 30,000 shillings (the exchange rate is about 1,500 TSH per 1 USD). However, the policewoman accepted a 10,000 TSH bribe, something which is quite common here. What’s hilarious is that Angela practically became best friends with this police woman. On our way home from the safari we saw the same woman there and Angela stopped to say a quick hello!  Even before we got to the park we saw lots of baboons (nyani) along the highway, even some babies!  When we got to Mikumi we decided to do it without a guide. It was Roger, Shona, Angela, Angela’s nephew, and I in our rental van. Roger was pretty familiar with the park as he had gone there before and also said the routes were pretty well-marked. However, the roads ended up being a bit treacherous. Some were nice flat dirt roads whereas others were pretty rough and full of puddles, mud, and big ruts, covered in rocks, or just tire tracks in the tall grass. Actually I’m sure a few of the paths we probably weren’t supposed to be on.  We ended up making some of our own paths when we had to go around big puddles or ditches. And also you are not supposed to get out of the car, but we decided not to follow that rule. It was a big enough place and no one was around most of the time. Plus, we needed to get to figure out how to maneuver the van around obstacles, to move rocks, and to take better pictures of the animals of course!  We saw seven hippos (kiboko) in one of the ponds, along with a group of men cutting down plants. These guys were actually IN the water not too far from the hippos. The hippos would stay under water and then stick their heads up every once and a while to get air, snorting with their ears twitching. They were so big!  We saw some wildebeest (nyumbu) and there were impala (swalahala) everywhere including a HUGE heard of them. We estimated that there were a few hundred of them.  We also saw a group of about six warthogs (nygiri) very close up. After the nygiri we saw giraffes (twiga) and zebra (punda milia). You could tell that many of the animals were accustomed to having cars close to them because they allowed us to get so close. We found a path that led to some empty buildings and saw about eight elephants (tembo), including babies!  Angela was terrified of the elephants, especially because they were so close to the road and even crossing it right in front of us.  We decided it was best to hang back for a while so mama and baby elephant could get a little further from the road. We did one last 30 km circuit hoping to see some water buffalo (kifaru). We ended up seeing a huge herd of them right before we left. Also on that last circuit we saw elephants, but Angela got freaked out and gunned it past them (It was pretty hilarious).  That last path had the worst roads and we almost tipped over into a ditch! We ended up being very impressed both with Angela’s driving skills and the fact that the van made it through our safari. Other than the lions, we ended up seeing all the big species of animals at Mikumbi, not to mention all the birds, lizards, and guinea fowl.

Monday May 21, 2012

So we are in Tukuyu now, which is only about 20 minutes from Ilima, the village in which we will be working.  We had a 10 hour journey here yesterday. Angela is not with us anymore, but we are now joined by Dr. Gimbi. We tried visiting the veterinarian for the region, Dr. Kibona, today, but he was away all day. We’re hoping to tag along on some of his farm calls. We figured it would be good veterinary experience as well as a way to potentially see poultry farms in other villages. Although Kibona was not there, we did meet another man named Mpunda at the DALDO (District Agriculture and Livestock Development Office). Mpunda is head of the DALDO. He told us a little bit more about Africa Bridge, an NGO working in nearby villages. They mainly work with those people affected most by AIDS. They deal mainly with cattle. They had distributed swine, but there was an outbreak of African Swine Fever (Shona and I were very excited that we remembered this from virology)so they are no longer working with swine and possibly interested in poultry.  Mpunda also told us they he owned a dispensary innTukuyu and carried Newcastle vaccine – this could be a close and reliable place to get the vaccine.

Next we stopped at Rungwe District Office and met with Mwansasa, acting director of the region (the actual director, Mahyenga, was away). Then we went to yet another book store to try to find the elusive Tanzanian Atlas for Ilima Primary School. We managed to get four copies in Morogoro, but Roger was hoping to get a lot more. We also checked out some veterinary drug dispensaries and the internet café. I was quite disappointed with the internet café – we are not allowed to use flash drives nor are we allowed to bring our own laptops. It Seems like blogging is going to be an issue and as well as printing materials for farmers.

We visited Ilima secondary school, which started in 2006 and has grown quite a bit since then. When Roger first came to Ilima in 2003 there was no secondary school and kids from Ilima had to walk pretty far to go to other schools. Thus, many of them did not even attend secondary school.  There are now over 500 students at the secondary school and eleven teachers. The layout of the school is interesting…picturesque, but quite impractical. Classrooms descend along a large, steep hill with now stairs or walkway. We imagined that many students must just slide down this hill to class in the rainy season. One of the main purposes of our visit was to find out how the chicken house is progressing. Funds were acquired by Roger to build a poultry building at the school so that the students could learn about poultry management and sell eggs. Mr. Pimbi, the headmaster, will soon be living on school grounds, so there will be someone there full time to look after the chickens.  We saw that the poultry building was not yet finished. We met with Mr. Pimbi and Zekeo, the academic headmaster. Zekeo is originally from the area and returned after his studies to teach – something that is apparently very rare hear. Initially there was rapid fire discussion in Swahili between Dr.Gimbi, Allen Minga, Zekeo, and Pimbi. They were discussing living arrangements for Shona and I and then what was going on with the chicken house – why wasn’t it finished? It still had no windows or doors, but construction had begun in 2007. So the deal with the chicken house is that it is on a plot of land belonging to the Moravian church. There are also two small houses on this land. The Ilima Ward community has an agreement with the church: they will build two similar houses on another plot of land belonging to the church, but use the plot on which the poultry building is situated for the school. The reason why construction has stopped, Pimbi explained, is because construction needs to begin on the church’s new houses first. Pimbi said they he was under a lot of pressure from the local government to begin construction on these houses, although it is technically the community’s responsibility and not the school’s responsibility. Once construction begins on the church houses, then construction can begin on the new house for the headmaster and the chicken house can be finished…hopefully. There is a meeting next week to decide when construction should begin on the church houses. Pimbi still seems very enthusiastic about the poultry building. It was, after all, his idea. We also discussed getting a photocopier for the school. They spend a lot of money on photocopies, so having their own would free up a lot of money for other things and they could also charge other schools a reasonable price to use it. Many of the students are AIDS orphans that live with their grandparents along with many other children and have limited funds. Most cannot afford to pay school fees.  Shona and I were invited to come teach a class or two – we were thinking maybe some stuff about basic poultry farming, sanitation,  stuff about North America, etc.

Tuesday May 22, 2012

Such a great day! We went to Lunanda primary school to find out a little more about the school, but not to discuss the poultry project…not yet anyway. We spoke with the headmaster, Mwahegaya, along with members of the school council. There are 220 students at the school, last year of 41 students in standard 7, only 28 passed and went on to Ilima secondary school.  They only have five teachers and are in desperate need for more. Another problem is a serious lack of books.  For some subjects they have just one book. They especially need books for standards 5,6,7 because of a recent change in the curriculum. The headmaster thinks that having five books per subject per grade would make a huge difference. That works out to be 315 books, which would cost around 1,890,000 TSH (about  $1200). There are no school fees, but the children must buy uniforms and school supplies. Yet another big issue at the school is that there is no lunch program. Some bring food from home, but most do not. Many eat before and after school, but go the entire day (like 8am to 5 pm) without any food. We have heard that at other schools in the area successful farmers will provide food to feed the students. And Gimbi told us that at his primary school there was a “self-reliance” program in which students grew their own food.  At the end of the meeting Roger gave the headmaster some notebooks and textbooks we had gotten in Tukuyu. It won’t solve the problem of not having enough books for every grade, but it will definitely help with students having greater access to books. Next we headed off to Ilima Primary school for the big celebration they throw for “Baba Rogers” (father Rogers) to welcome him back and thank him for all of the work that he and his wife have done for the school since they first came to Ilima in 2003. Our visit to Ilima primary was incredible! When we arrived there were hundreds of uniformed students on the side of the road waiting for us. They were all singing and waving tree branches full of leaves. They were singing a song about sweeping the floor for guest to welcome them (hence the tree branches). They were all so excited to see Roger!  And their singing was so good! Ilima primary is at the mountain of this steep, rocky hill. It took about  15 minutes to reach the school and the whole time the children were behind us singing. Another song in their repertoire was one one in which they sing “Karibu tena” (welcome again). On the way down I got a chance to speak with one of the teachers, who was actually a volunteer teacher. When we reached the school we signed their guest book. We have signed so many guestbooks in the past week. Every single place we go we sign a guest book. We went to look at the Roger Thomson building, which was still in need of windows and doors. Because of a change in price of some of the materials needed, construction was at a standstill. But they were at least able to use it for classrooms.  We went outside and there were speeches and more singing and dancing. Allen Minga and Dr. Gimbi were able to translate lot of it for us. What’s funny is that a lot of their songs were so literal, like when they sang about the termite problem in one of the buildings. Shona and I both gave a short speech introducing ourselves and even spoke a little Kiswahili. The assembly ended with roger giving a speech describing the history of his relationship with the school and the village as well as commending them for all their imorovements in academics. Ilima primary was first in the ward for the past 3 years in regards to students passing standard 7 and moving on to secondary school.  They invited us inside for a delicious lunch of nyama (meat), bananas, rice, and spinach. Over lunch I tried to explain to Allen what an allergy. He was very confused by the fact that he had given me all these groundnuts (peanuts) and Shona was taking them all off my plate. I found the word allergy in my Swahili book “mzio” and showed him. We also talked to Allen about our possible accommodations at Zekeo’s place (a teacher at Ilima secondary). Allen did not seem  happy with the place, so we made plans to take a look at another place, and to also have a look for ourselves at Zekeo’s place. After lunch we headed up the big hill to our car. We were accompanied by the headmaster and the teachers. I spoke once again with one of the volunteer teachers, Fred. He is originally from Zambia, but he in Nyakusa and speaks Nyakusa fluently. Nyakusa is the tribal language of Ilima. Although everyone knows Swahili, Nyakusa is still widely spoken, especially among the older people. We gave the teachers textbooks and workbooks we had gotten in Tukuyu and said our goodbyes. We then headed off to look for accommodations for Shona and I. Alfan, the ilima primary headmaster, Agnes, a teacher, Allen, and also Talita, the village executive officer of Ilima, all came with us to check out places in Ushirika. The first place belonged to Agnes’s mother. It was a small compound shared with other families  with a courtyard in the center. The room was kind of dark and small and a bit on the dingy side.  The shower room and latrine were quite a distance from the room, but there was a water pump nearby. We were much happier with Zekeo’s place.  It’s a little compound of sorts with a courtyard and a place to cook on the ground to cook with paraffin or charcoal. There’s a latrine and a place to take bucket showers. The room consists of a big bed, a table with two chairs, and an power outlet. There is a light bulb and a pink fluorescent light. A mosquito net hangs over the bed and the walls are painted blue and covered with sports car posters with fake flowers strung around the wall. The décor makes the room a bit brighter and happier. We chose this place hands down. Agnes, who lives just down the street, promised to cook us a chicken dinner our first night there with the chicken Roger was gifted at Ilima primary.

Wednesday May 23, 2012

Today we went to Ilima to have a meeting with all the teacher farmers and vaccinators. Some student farmers were there as well. The village chair, James, facilitated the meeting. He himself is a teacher farmer and has been such a huge help. He is able to command so much attention and helps to keep order in such meetings. On the way to Ilima we picked up Talita, the Village Executive Officer (VEO), who accompanied us to the meeting. We also got a chance to meet Talida’s boss, the Ward Executive Officer, on the way. Talita has told us numerous times to call her if we have any issues and has even offered to teach us to cook. Our meeting with the farmers went pretty smoothly with Gibi translating for us and James keeping order. We asked the farmers to introduce themselves and to tell us what things were going well as well as any issues or concerns. I have a running list of thirteen issues that Shona and I should work in this summer. The first teacher farmer that spoke, however, said that he had no rpoblems and everything was going well. I was afraid all of them would say something similar. It’s the Tanzanian thing to do: tell someone want you think they want to hear. Some of the problems were: chick mortality, missing the October vaccine because it was expired (but they did not go back and get a new one so they went 6 months without vaccinating, as they vaccinate every 3 months), the issue of teacher farmers becoming older and not being able to perform their duties anymore, but don’t want to give up the job and the pay, they would like more training in the form of field trips to other poultry farms to see what other farmers are doing, and also there are some issues with feeding and coop construction. It was interesting to see during the meeting that there seemed to be drama amongst some people. If only we knew everything everyone was saying! One thing we discovered was that the farmers saw the correlation between higher mortality and skipping a vaccination. However, one teacher farmer thinks that the vaccine was responsible for killing some of his chickens.  We had yet another meeting outside – this time it was to welcome us to the village. When some of the villagers stood up to speak  they were pointing at us and seemed so angry. I was worried we did something wrong or that they didn’t want us there, but they were actually just explaining how happy they were to have us there and how they appreciate our help. Some ideas Roger Shona and I talked about:  Look into taking the teachers to Nane Nane (the big agricultural faire in Mbeya) or to some nearby successful poultry farms, help with coop construction, a new vaccine schedule, figuring out what the vaccinators are doing in terms of payment for the vaccine (it was expected that the vaccinators would charge the farmers for vaccinating and make a small profit), and also address the issue of teachers being too old and students that the teachers no longer want in their groups because they never show up to meetings.  We discussed the possibility of getting new chickens. Although everyone seems to want more chickens, I think it’s best to work on a lot of the management issues the farmers are having first.  Tonight Shona and I tried Konyagi for the first time, a strong Tanzanian alcohol that kind of smells like a pine tree, but it’s pretty good with bitter lemon soda.

Thursday May 24, 2012

Today we visited Uyole Ag College about an hour and a half north of Tukuyu. It was a huge, beautiful campus. Because the Ministry of Lifestock had split from the Ministry of Agriculture, the school had also split. There was a Lifestock Research Center, a Training Institute, and also an Agricultural Research Center – so there was some confusion about where we should go and who we should be talking to in regards to our project. We were able to speak with an animal health technician, who was in the middle of a cow necropsy with a bunch of students, about the possibility of animal health students doing a placement in Ilima. The issue is that due to lack of funds, many of the students to placement in nearby villages so they don’t need to pay room and board. It’s unfortunate that only neaby villages benefit from such institutions as Uyole. We also got a chance to speak to an old friend of Dr. Gimbi’s, a veterinarian at the Livestock Research Center. It was interesting to get some feedback from him about our project. He explained that exotic breeds, such as Rhode Island Reds, often require more management and are often more susceptible to disease.  He explained how it is difficult for farmers here to confine their chickens and he told us how combining free range with feed supplementation was something that is often done. He also talked about how it is best to confine young chicks until at least 8 weeks, once they are big enough to protect themselves from predators. We discussed the importance of focusing on housing, nutrition, and vaccination at the same time. We talked about Newcastle and how outbreaks tend to happen during the dry season. He gave us the name and number of a vet in Mbeya that supplies vaccine.

Friday May 25, 2012

Today we stopped by to see if Dr. Kibono, the region veterinarian was in…still no luck. But we did talk to an extension officer there. He gave us the contact information for lifestock field officer for Ilima Ward who lives in Ushirika (where we will be living). He could be someone who could check up on things in Ilima when we are not there.  We found out that Rungwe District consists of 37 wards and 167 villages and there are 2 veterinarians, 4 livestock officers, and 22 livestock field officers. We also discussed getting the Newcastle vaccine from Dr. Kibona, who orders it from Iringa. Possibly James or Allen could call Kibona and order it ahead of time. The extension officer also told us that Kibona offers diagnostic services so we were thinking of having him do some chicken necropsies. We once again stopped over at the Regional Director’s office and this time met Noel Mahyenga, who was back in town. He was incredibly friendly and welcoming. He said to let him know if we had any problems and said we could even come to his office anytime during the day to use the internet. We also had an interesting conversation with him about beekeeping, which seems to be becoming more common in the region.  We visited the Africa Bridge offices. They are an NGO based in Seattle, Washington. There were 4 local people working in the office: a project manager, accountant, children committee coordinator, and agriculture and livestock extension officer. We told them about our project and found out more about how they operate. Our meeting got a bit tense at one point when the children committee coordinator kept asking us about village involvement and seemed to be accusing us for not having enough of it.  Gimbi was getting quite annoyed with this man and was trying to explain to him that we involve the village at every level – Village Executive Officer, Village chair, etc. They suggested that maybe instead of sending  just the “teacher” farmers to train at Uyole, we could get someone from Uyole come to the village and train all the farmers. We were thinking this would be a good idea – for someone trained in poultry management to hold a workshop for all the farmers. We will have to look into who could do this and how much it would cost.  Africa Bridge deals with crops as well as livestock. They work in villages they have a high number of AIDS orphans, low economic status, and are not receiving aid from any other organization. The way their heifer program works is that the village chooses 10 families which meet certain criteria, such as a high number of AIDS orphans in the family. These families get heifers and pass the calves along to other families. Africa Bridge provides them only with 300,000 TSH and one type of vaccination, which does not really seem like enough. The farmers apparently have a revolving fund which they can borrow money from and pay back at a low interest rate. We are planning to go back to Africa Bridge and come with them to some of the villages they work in and find out more.  Next we headed to our meeting with members of the Lumanda village, which is located next to Ilima. We are hoping to expand the poultry project to Lubanda this summer. Our goal is to train 5 teacher farmers by the end of the summer. We are having a meeting on Wednesday to see who is interested in the program, who wants to be a teacher, who wants to be a student. Ultimately we want the villagers to decide on the 5 teachers, but we can help guide their decision. Roger suggested a requirement be that they can read and write. We would also like to visit all the farms of those interested in being teachers.

After our Lubanda meeting we went to buy rice in Ilima, a process which involved a solid 15 minutes of haggling and then a visit to someone’s house. Things take a lot longer here.  Then Shona and I moved in to our accommodation.  Before we said our goodbyes to Roger and Gimbi, they were going to give us a ride down the street to get food. While I was trying to figure out just how to close the latrine door, Zekeo passed out while Shona was talking to him. He was still breathing and everything, but completely unresponsive. When his brother carried him to our van his eyes were open, but he was still unresponsive. He is at the hospital now. We hope that he is going to be okay and that it is nothing serious.  We had planned to have a chicken dinner with one our neighbors, Agnes, a teacher at Ilima primary school, but she was also in the hospital with her neighbor who had gotten sick.  So for our first night of dinner on our own we had stale bread and mango juice! Our plan for tomorrow is to buy food and tools with which to cook.

So many initiatives on the go…where to begin?

Baby chicks in Ilima recently received their vaccines for Newcastle on the increased vaccination schedule.  This new timetable means that between the regular flock vaccinations every three months, recently hatched chicks will receive their dosage earlier.  As the mortality among chicks is still very high, it is hoped this will help swing the favour back toward the birds.  The vaccine protocols need some minor tweaking here and there but it’s on our to-do list.  It took two days to complete the vaccinations but we were happy to lend a hand!

So many chicks, only so many hands!

Some chicks didn’t appreciate the vaccination so off to hide from the evil vaccinators!

Hiding under Mom!

While currently working on translating the training manual in use by the teacher farmers, we have made some good advances in updating material to include that will cover nutrition, housing and general information on raising chickens.  More training in nutrition has been a common request from the farmers during our interviews and is something we feel we can accommodate.  Millet grows wild in the region, termites populate the dying vegetation and even banana peels can contribute to the health of chickens without taking from the maize, which is used to feed the families.

With sustainability in mind, a micro-credit system of chickens as the commodity is being planned.  An initial injection of new birds into the program will be the starting point for a continuing pay-forward of birds to other farmers, as well as a potential payback into a fund that will assist in purchasing supplies, pre-mixed feed, etc.

We continue to receive positive feedback from the village elders and the farmers with whom we interact, as well as some wonderful ideas on how they’d like to see the project progress.  As we intend to move forward with the final goal of having the villagers themselves take full ownership of this project, having active input and interest displayed by both teachers and students is a wonderful sign.  The people here are very creative, intelligent and not only willing to learn but teach us much about caring for chickens in a village environment.

Slow but sure…

A few hiccups here and there have been showing up like the speedbumps they are so fond of putting in towns in Tanzania.  For us, it is a lesson in patience (in the towns, it’s a necessity as the only highway goes right through it).

Much of our work currently involves interviewing farmers as we prepare to implement the increased vaccination schedule to help ensure the chicks are not waiting too long for theirs.  With luck, we will have all our data by early next week and the week after will see us accompanying the village vaccinators, assisting and assessing as we go.

The village itself is spread out across the side of a small mountain. So our days generally involve a lot of hiking up and down hills in the African sun.  Add to that our occasional day off with 14 km walks to see if we can make it to the next town over, and it’s a fair bit of miles being put on our shoes.

We live in a town called Ushirika, because the village of Ilima just doesn’t have the ability to put us up for three months. Ushirika is a small town of about 4,000 people with one short strip of shops and a market. The rest is all residential stretching out into the hills.  Our host, Esther, is a teacher at the Ilima Secondary School and has been a wonderful person with whom to live. She has a good grip on English, helps us with our Swahili and roasted up a huge bunch of karanga (ground nuts) that we spent a night shelling.  Many of the villagers feel that we cannot visit without receiving something so they tend to give us bags of ground nuts.  We’re certainly in no shortage of them.

Living is very basic here and based on a lot of adaptation.  Electricity is sporadic, along with water, so you grab a shower whenever you get the chance.  And that involves a bucket of very cold water.  Cooking is a long process as there isn’t really any kitchen.  Just a corner of the room with a small, portable one-burner gas stove.  Clothes are all done by hand-washing.

All-in-all, it’s a wonderful place. People love when we try out our basic Swahili and even more excited when we use the local dialect of the Nykyusa (I think that’s how you spell it) tribe.  Just a simple “Andaga” (thank you) can light up faces and get a great big, happy laugh.

So, our treks up and down the mountain continue.  Work aplenty to get done and time seems to be flying by too quickly.

Pole sana!

We are very sorry (pole sana) that it took so long to get an update on here.  Our internet access is very limited, as many of our other resources, too.

The village of Ilima is both beautiful and wonderful. The people have been nothing but welcoming and eager to work with us.  The work done by Adam and Monica last year appears to have made progress among a good number of farmers and we now have many more looking to get involved.  Sadly, we can only accomodate so many in one summer but we have high hopes that after ramping up the system and incorporating some new initiatives, next year could see more teaching farmers expanding into new groups with whole new batches of students!

Currently, we’re expanding the groups that already exist by another 30 farmers, as the teachers indicated this was the most they could bring into the current pool.  We will be training them directly to bring them up to speed with the others already involved and researching the possibility of incorporating millet and termites into the chicken feed, as they usually rely on maize grain.

Baby chicks still have a high mortality rate but we’ve already started to work on increasing the vaccinations for Newcastle disease to try and ensure the chicks are not waiting too long.

The views here are amazing.  Coming from Ontario myself, where there are no real mountains, I find it constantly a wonder to look around pretty much anywhere we are and see mountains.  The valleys and hills are covered in tea plantations, small fields owned by families, banana trees and sugar cane.

We have not had much time to go try any tours or hikes yet as we have been quite involved in making sure the project goals for the summer get moving, but sometime next week, we may be going to climb Mount Rungwe.

So, until we next get to a computer, enjoy the summer! I know we are.

I’d like to mention that my involvement in this project has been generously sponsored by Burnbrae Farms, CIDA, Iams (P&G) and many family and friends!

Tanzania Preparations

School at the WCVM finished two weeks ago, and I came back to Calgary for a crazy two weeks of visiting family and friends, and preparations for the trip. I tried to start my packing earlier than normal, but somehow I still have have packing left today before I leave for tomorrow!
It is always sad to say good-bye to everyone at home, but I am starting to get very excited. I cannot wait to get there, and start working on the project. I love to experience a new culture and meet new people. This summer is going to have its challenges but I think it is going to lots of fun!!!

A chicken toy for the kids in Tanzania!

Here We Go!

The final week to my departure on May 12, 2011!  This is a time of excitement, hurried last minute preparations, meetings with friends and promises of stories to accompany my return.  Basically, running around like a…well, like a chicken without uh….heh, let’s just leave it that.  ;D

So for the first time ever, I have pulled out my backpack/luggage a full week in advance.  Trying desperately not to make this a last minute frenzy of “Oh, I need that!” and “What am I forgetting???”.

Wondering if I can fit my dog in my backpack?

Before the Beginning

The transition from final exams to focusing on final preparations to travel across the world has been a humbling but productive experience.  As refreshing as it has been to break free of the classroom, the magnitude of the project and my anticipation of getting involved has been a roller coaster of emotion.  Excited, definitely.  Learning more about the trials of travelling, most definitely.


Tanzania – The End? Nah…

Well, tomorrow Monica and I spend our last day in the Rungwe district (tear, from her not me- real men never cry). In all honestly, it will be a very tough dayas we are having one last village meeting with Ilima and then spending the rest of the afternoon with some of our closest friends. In case you are just tuning in now, here is a little bit of what we have done..

Well, almost two months has passed since our arrival in Dar,
And after a few rough beginnings we have come pretty far,
Adam’s brief hospital visit that gave us quite a scare,
And overpaying each time when asked for bus fare,
We have come to consider Tukuyu a quite comfortable place,
Even constantly hearing “mzungo”, iterally meaning “white face”,
Our daily stops for at “The Lodge” for mishaki and chips,
The only place in the region that does not seem to beg us for tips,
The toilets are holes and the buses quite filled,
So when we refuse to move over, they are never quite thrilled,
All the time spent in Ilima speaking with farmers and helping birds,
They may not understand English but they know we are nerds,
Monica ordering a bird book here instead of listening to me,
Because when it comes to Tanzania, there is no guarantee,
Sampling Dodoma’s vino as it was all we could find,
After a night with alter wine you are lucky you’re not blind
It has been an incredible experience, packed with laughs,memories and smiles
We kinda promised we would be back, got any more aeroplan miles?

Thank you to all who made this experience possible. We are headed to Ruaha National Park and then Zanzibar to see a little more of the country before going home..


Adam and Monica


Vaccine Time in Tanzania

Most birds are majestic creatures which gracefully glide across the sky and are capable of focusing so intently on the land below that is appears they are gazing into the soul of Mother Nature.

A chicken trying to avoid capture so it can receive an essential vaccination to prevent its death is not as pleasant a sight. In fact, if you are the big tall, slow white guy, who can barely string 3 sentences of the local language together, trying to catch said chicken for 5-10 minutes, you can almost sense Charles Darwin turning over in his grave. To be fair, we had instructed our teaching group to tell their students to KEEP YOUR CHICKENS INSIDE, but we also said a lot of other things that day, they were bound to forget something. Needless to say, we did not vaccinate a lot of chickens on the first day.

However, things picked up quite quickly. We have now vaccinated over 600 chickens between the 55 farmers we are working with and are going back tomorrow to finish with the last few houses. Interestingly enough, there has been quite a dramatic increase in the number of birds per farm especially considering we surveyed all of these people less than a month ago. I like to think that they have just been diligently following our advice and that this rapid progress is simply an indication of our surreal poultry education methods rather than the more likely explanation of a suspect addition of birds from their neighbours…

Joking aside, there has been some notable improvements in poultry husbandry within the village. It was a very proud moment when we saw our vaccinator-teacher-student system being put to work in the past few days as Monica and I were able to simply observe the process instead of feeling inclined to assist directly with the vaccinations. I believe that the group of people we have selected is a responsible and motivated team who will be able to continue on with their duties during the months that we will not be here. We have almost now finished our education materials which will be left with each one of these people allowing for better communication between all parties throughout the year as well as some built in mechanisms of evaluation for future project work.